Five shippers from Florida and New York will test local star Silmaril at Laurel Park Saturday in the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares.
Silmaril has been established as the 5-2 favorite for the seven-furlong test on the main track that drew a field of eight. Best known for her upset victory in the Pimlico Distaff (gr. III) over filly champion Ashado in 2005, Silmaril has banked $639,153 with eight stakes victories at five different distances. Ryan Fogelsonger, her regular rider, will be at the controls for trainer Chris Grove.
“It seems like a well-rounded field without a legitimate standout, with about three or four that could win it,” said Grove. “She is as prepared as she has been for the last several starts. I am confident in her, and she is as ready as I can get her. I think seven-eighths is her best distance right now, and I look forward to a big effort out of her Saturday.”
“It looks like a tough field, but she is very capable,” said Fogelsonger, who won the Fritchie with Bear Fan in 2004. “Chris said she is training better than ever, and I am excited.”
Smart and Fancy (7-2) has won six of ten starts, including three of four last year for trainer Tony Dutrow. Her resume includes four stakes victories highlighted by a pair of first-place finishes on Maryland Million day. In her most recent effort, after being bumped at the start, she finished second to Oprah Winney in Aqueduct’s Interborough Handicap. Jeremy Rose, who has been aboard for two of the added money scores, has the mount.
“Smart and Fancy is a good as I have seen her,” Dutrow said. “She likes Laurel, and it looks like she is competitive with this group. Jeremy is a very talented rider, knows Laurel very well, and has got along well with this filly. I am looking forward to the race.”
Tony Dutrow will saddle three runners in the Fritchie. Dutrow’s younger brother, Richard Dutrow Jr., will send two runners from his Aqueduct base: Carmandia and Oprah Winney. But they are entered under the name of his brother because the younger Dutrow starts a 14-day suspension on Thursday that was ordered by the New York Racing and Wagering Board for violating terms of a suspension he served back in 2005.
Oprah Winney (5-1) has a world of early speed, as evidenced by gate-to-wire victories in the Randaroo Stakes, the Bouwerie Stakes, and the Interborough--all in New York. Mike Smith rode her in her most recent start and will accompany her to Maryland on Saturday.
Carmandia (6-1) jumped up and won the First Flight Handicap (gr. II) for Dutrow at Aqueduct in November. She failed to fire in her next start, the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II), and has been on the shelf ever since. Mike Luzzi will get his first try aboard the 5-year-old daughter of Wild Rush.
“I know, if Ricky’s in the race, you have to respect him,” said Tony Dutrow. “Both can really run.”
Assigned high weight of 118 pounds, Leah’s Secret (9-2) is already a winner at Laurel in last fall’s Anne Arundel Stakes. She spent the past 2 1/2 months in light training at Gulfstream Park and has not started since the Anne Arundel. She will be reunited with jockey Mark Guidry, who rode her to victory in the Raven Run (gr. II) at Keeneland before winning at Laurel. The daughter of Tiger Ridge won five races in 2006 for trainer Helen Pitts.
“The last two weeks, she has trained very well and has had a couple nice works leading into the Fritchie,” said Pitts. “She is a filly who likes to win, and we have always been very high on her. Coming off a layoff seven-eighths is better for her, but there are a lot of hard-knocking fillies in this one.”
New York runner Great Intentions (5-1), seventh behind Carmandia in the First Flight and fourth behind Oprah Winney in the Interborough, won Aqueduct’s Affectionately in gate-to-wire fashion for trainer Michael Hushion in her most recent try. Jockey Channing Hill has picked up the mount.
$300,000 Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 4:26 p.m.)
Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Oprah Winney (NY), 116, Mike E. Smith
2. Silmaril (MD), 117, Ryan Fogelsonger
3. Dixie Marrone (KY), 108, No Rider
4. Plata (MD), 113, Mario G. Pino
5. Great Intentions (KY), 117, Channing Hill
6. Smart and Fancy (MD), 115, Jeremy Rose
7. Leah's Secret (FL), 118, Mark Guidry
8. Carmandia (KY), 117, Michael J. Luzzi